Mike Flanagan is no stranger to business. He’s a financial consultant in Onalaska, just north of La Crosse, and president of Functional Biosciences, a DNA sequencing company based in Madison’s University Research Park.
Even experienced dogs can learn new tricks, however. When Flanagan attended the first Wisconsin Tech Summit, he got advice from major companies that changed the growth prospects for his emerging biotechnology firm.
Flanagan’s 15-minute “speed dates” at the 2014 Tech Summit, to be held again April 25 in Waukesha, persuaded him to apply for a regulatory clearance portrayed as essential for doing business with larger laboratories and pharmaceutical companies that handle human specimens.
Read this commentary in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel here.
“During the Tech Summit, we received confirmation that pursuing (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) certification was the correct direction for us to take,” Flanagan recalled.
“The decision to continue our path to CLIA certification materialized after two pivotal meetings. We left the Tech Summit with a renewed sense of purpose …”
That regulatory path was neither quick nor inexpensive, but it’s now completed. Flanagan thinks the CLIA stamp of approval will help Functional Biosciences grow — perhaps with the help of the very companies that gave him the advice.
That story is just one example of how the upcoming Tech Summit at Waukesha’s GE Healthcare Institute connects major companies with young firms from across Wisconsin.
Emerging companies may apply through Tuesday at www.wistechsummit.comto participate in the third annual summit, a daylong event that puts them in front of major companies that often do business in similar sectors.
Thirteen major firms have agreed to take part so far: AT&T, Aurora Health Care, BloodCenter of Wisconsin, Dedicated Computing, Direct Supply, GE Healthcare, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Intel, Logistics Health Inc., Johnson Controls, Marshfield Clinic Information Services, Promega and Rockwell Automation.
Those firms will engage in a series of 15-minute meetings with emerging companies from across the state that apply for the chance to pitch their products, services, research and ideas. Other features of the event will include:
■ An opening panel discussion to help set the stage for emerging companies by allowing major companies an opportunity to talk generally about their goals, needs and emerging markets;
■ Educational seminars, which will be available to all participants during those times in which they are not scheduled for individual meetings;
■ A continental breakfast, networking lunch and on-site reception.
Major companies will hear from younger firms with innovative products or services tied to areas such as “big data,” connected devices and data analytics in sectors ranging from health care to information systems, and from power electronics to advanced manufacturing.
This year’s conference co-chairmen are Sujeet Chand of Rockwell Automation and Vivek Bhatt of GE Healthcare, whose teams are among those that will meet with emerging companies.
Flanagan said he would “highly recommend” that emerging companies like his own apply to attend. So do other veterans of past events.
“At last year’s event, several of our meetings led to follow-ups and long-term business relationships,” said Scott Vanderbeck, president of Organic Research Group. “I would strongly recommend the Tech Summit as a way to get your foot in the door at major companies that might otherwise be difficult to get meetings with…”
“Our engagements (throughout the day) were very genuine. Almost all our meetings resulted in productive connections,” said Josh Herritz of MIOsoft. “Suffice it to say, the speed-dating format was considerably more effective than we anticipated.”
“Though short, the meetings themselves were a valuable way to gather feedback on our product and on the needs of a number of different industries,” said Maggie Hua of SmartUQ. “The insights gained have been used to help direct product development and to improve the explanation of our value proposition.”
Not all of the Tech Summit’s speed dates result in corporate romance, of course, but surveys of past major company participants show more than 40% followed up on half or more of their speed dates and more than 90% followed up on at least one encounter.
For many emerging companies, it’s not just about attracting angel and venture capital — although some early stage funds will be represented at the summit, as well. It’s also about making the right business connections.
Large and small companies often travel in different “orbits,” even if they’re in the same business sectors, and they rarely collide except by chance.
The Wisconsin Tech Summit’s speed-dating approach aims to help some of those orbits to cross — and the state’s business development stars to better align here.